Organic farming has always had a bit of a ‘hippy’ image. It’s easy to imagine wizened farmers in tune with the earth, toiling away with nothing more than a trowel and a passion for the best quality, natural produce they can grow. But with annual sales of nearly £2 billion in the UK alone, organic food is now big business. While the farmers’ passion still remains, their hypothetical trowels have been upgraded to some of the most cutting-edge kit in agriculture.
Simon Gardner is an organic farm manager for G’s Fresh Produce, in Cambridgeshire, and is at the forefront of this shift towards technology out in the field. He manages a 300-hectare farm growing lettuce, celery, romaine, onions and beetroot, and relishes the challenges growing organically brings.
‘The main way organic farming differs to non-organic is that we can’t rely on any chemistry to help us out, so the challenge of managing weeds, disease and pests has to be solved in a completely different way,’ he explains. ‘You have to do a lot of long-term planning and strategizing wherever possible. That’s why I like it so much – you take crops that are hard enough to grow normally, and then add the almost impossible task of farming them organically.’